"Kevin De Bruyne is irreplaceable."
Considering these words from Man City manager, Pep Guardiola, The Citizens have a real problem. By now, we all know that the midfield playmaker is out injured until January at least, so somebody needs to replace the "irreplaceable" until then. Who in the City squad is up to the task? Will the replacement be good enough to maintain the Premier League favourite's push for yet another title?
Does Man City currently have the players to replace the injured Belgian, or will the club sign somebody new to fill the position? There's no doubt that the UK's gambling scene is buzzing awaiting future developments. De Bruyne's loss could affect the Champion's odds in a big way if solutions aren't found and City's form starts floundering.
How big a loss Kevin De Bruyne will be to City's chances of 2023/24 Premier League glory remains to be seen. We're going to look at some of the possible candidates who could fill the gap while the Belgian maestro sits on the sidelines.
Haaland Needs Feeding
There's no doubt that Erling Haaland is always hungry for goals. Kevin De Bruyne was the perfect attacking midfielder to serve him chances on a platter. And we all know he devours most of them!
Now, with De Bruyne not there, Guardiola needs to find another player to dish up those goalscoring opportunities for the big striker. Or players. When Man City hosted Newcastle, we watched a masterclass from the TWO players replacing the Belgian on the night.
Internal replacements like Foden and Álvarez
Phil Foden and Julián Álvarez both shone as joint number 10s behind Haaland against Newcastle. They provided opportunities for Haaland and each other. The record goalscorer didn't score on this occasion, but he didn't need to. The result - Man City 1 Newcastle 0 (goal - Álvarez, assist - Foden).
On the night, Julián Álvarez's goal and some solid defensive work overcame another potential title contender. Make no mistake, the other EPL managers would have paid close attention. Although the Foden-Álvarez midfield partnership is new, it showed potential.
Will it be good enough to withstand the scrutiny of the Klopps, Pochettinos and Artetas of the division, though? It's likely Guardiola has other plans to provide Erling Haaland with heaps of good ball to use, though. Could these involve Bernardo Silva, or even the young Cole Palmer or James McAtee?
Does Man City Need to Recruit to Replace?
Guardiola's view is that Kevin De Bruyne is irreplaceable. Can he replace him from inside the current Man City squad in the long term then? Alternatively, does it mean he'll bring in somebody new to fulfil the role? Another Belgian, Jérémy Doku, has signed since the star midfielder's injury, but he's a direct replacement for Riyad Mahrez and is not a De Bruyne-type player.
So who are the candidates from outside of the Etihad that could fill the Belgian's position?
For many weeks, the smart money has been on West Ham's Lucas Paquetá to be Man City's next big signing. The Brazilian has the pedigree to fill the gap left by De Bruyne and certainly fits Guardiola's idea of what an attacking midfielder should be. Paquetá is comfortable with the ball at his feet and drifts fluidly across the park. Distribution and confidence aren't weak points either.
The question is whether the former AC Milan and Lyon man is consistent enough. When on form, Paquetá has the ability to be a world star, but we have only seen glimpses of this throughout his career. There are also currently betting irregularity questions hanging over his head.
If Guardiola opts to bring Lucas Paquetá to City, you can be sure he has a plan for getting the best out of him. If he manages, it could solve the immediate De Bruyne problem.
Man City has recently had a £47 million bid for Wolves's Matheus Nunes turned down. Guardiola respects the Portuguese ball-carrier, last year calling him "one of the best players in the world today." The manager wants him at the Etihad, but questions remain about Nunes's suitability to directly take Kevin De Bruyne's place.
Yes, Nunes carries the ball well and his distribution isn't a problem, but would he link with Haaland like the Belgian does? Many see Matheus Nunes fitting into the Rodri role in a Man City line-up. Mateo Kovacic has recently signed from Chelsea, and Bernado Silva is also able to fill the position, so the club already isn't shy in that department.
With Nunes on the radar, could Guardiola be considering playing Rodri or Bernardo higher up the park, with Nunes filling in deeper? Whatever the case, Nunes would cost a lot, and Guardiola isn't too free with the City chequebook these days. Liverpool is reportedly also in the hunt for the Wolves man, so watch the odds on offer for his future movement.